Everyone knows about the Austrian school of economics (well, almost everyone, certainly people who regularly scanned the Age Monthly Review in the mid 1980s) and sometimes people were confused by references to the Australian School which was a misprint until the emergence of a genuine Australian School in the last week or three.
Catallaxy is the stronghold of the school. The Dean is Professor Sinclair Davidson of the RMIT and the flagships of the school are the new book by Steve Kates of the RMIT and the even newer book by Peter Smith which Steve launched at a Quadrant dinner last night.
I will take the show on the road later in the year, hopefully starting with a paper in Texas before dispensing Australian wit and wisdom in Missouri, Washington and Boston. This is the abstract submitted for Texas.
This paper advances three theses. The first is that the Austrians are on the mainline of economics (as distinct from the mainstream) due to Menger’s situational analysis and a distinctive philosophical or metaphysical framework that was identified by Barry Smith. Many of the basic tenets of the Austrians, but not the framework, were taken up by the mainstream. Significant differences emerged between the Austrians and others in the 1930s with the socialist calculation debate, the rise of Keynes and the advance of mathematical formalism. The differences have been intractable because the rise of positivism created difficulties in considering the all-important framework presuppositions that make the difference between the Austrians and other research programs. Popper’s theory of metaphysical research programs can be used to address this situation and the contents of his program match Menger’s framework almost point for point.
The second thesis is that Smith’s “fallibilistic apriorism” and Popper’s theory of conjectural knowledge provide a robust alternative to the strong form of apriorism that is a major obstacle for acceptance of Austrian economics in the mainstream.
The third thesis is that Austrian economics will be easier to teach and the mainstream of economics will move more easily towards the mainline when students approach economics with a good understanding of Popper’s ideas.
These theses are presented with the help of five concepts (1) Situational Analysis, (2) Popper’s theory of metaphysical research programs, (3) the Aristotelian or “Austrian realism” framework of ideas, (4) fallibilistic apriorism which is Smith’s term for a robust form of apriorism contra the ‘foundationalist apriorism” of Rothbard and Hoppe and (5) the four “turns” that Popper introduced in addition to his signature idea of falsificationism.